"Don't Look Down" by Caryn Caldwell - On how to fool yourself into finishing your first draft.Here’s the thing about first drafts: They are fun, but they are also scary. They are messy and muddled and awkward and hard. They have no guarantee. And they can make perfectionists like me very, very uncomfortable.

But they are worth it for the times when everything works and, anyway, they have to be done in order to get to revisions. Even on the difficult days.

And those days do come.

Unfortunately, there’s no category for Personal Cheering Section in the help-wanted ads, and the cats would rather sleep on the couch than rah-rah-rah me into getting all the new words written. So when I’ve used up my last jar of inspiration, and my motivation has fled, I have to flail those pom-poms myself.

Throughout my recent two-month long frenzy of creative chaos — otherwise known as a first draft — I did just that. To be specific, I built a page of reminders to look at any time my typing lagged. As the manuscript grew, so did my list, because I learn new things every time I write a book or, more likely, I learn the same things over and over, forgetting in between.

Here, prettied up for your sake, and shared in case it provides inspiration (perhaps to those embarking on NaNoWriMo), is my memo to myself:

Tell a good story.

Write now. Revise later.

Have fun. Smile. And then send a knife hurtling toward your protagonist.

Go on. She can take it.

Forget layering in emotion, setting, symbols, and theme for now. This is an empty tortilla, baby. Only one floppy layer to be had. Fill it later.

At some point — usually three days — it will be harder to stop than it is to keep going.

Until then, write it anyway.

You have finished books before. You will do it again.

Probably even this one.

Comparing an untamed first draft to a previous book’s reworked, polished, final form is like comparing a supermodel’s eighth grade school picture with her Vogue spread. Not fair. Everyone looks awkward at the beginning. The pretty comes later.

The book will not be perfect.

The book will not be perfect.

The book will not be perfect.

But it can be fixed. That’s what revisions are for.

Just type.

Don’t look down.

How do you convince yourself to keep going on difficult writing days?